It is the nature of man to be naturally drawn to the best, the biggest, the brightest, the most beautiful or handsome, the fairest, the most popular. That is why show business is one of the most lucrative businesses around.
And yet one of the more popular stories in the Gospels is the parable of the mustard seed. In it, Jesus talks about how the Kingdom of Heaven starts from humble beginnings- a mustard seed that goes on to become one of the biggest herbs. This story is countercultural in at least two ways. First, contrary to our tendency for superlatives, the story reminds us that many things in life begin small. Second, the mustard seed is really a fast-growing plant–in fact, it has been called a malignant weed by some–that has takeover properties (it “creeps” on other plants and takes over).
Stories are usually about the grand. Movies have dramatic music that crescendos and makes us cry. News goes for the extremes of bizarre and beautiful to sell. The counter-revolution that the mustard seed reminds us of is the revolution of the silent, the constant, the normal, every day. It reminds us: there, every day, is where the real battle is. There, in the normal, in the boring, is where the great begins. There, in a dark cold night, like all other dark cold nights, in the middle of a town called Bethlehem, like any other town, is where Jesus was born. Heroes are not born in one instance of glory, they make decisions every single day that eventually lead them to that ultimate point of no return. In a sense, that final moment of offering is really just a logical conclusion to a life well lived in the day-to-day.
When worse comes to worst, what you do every single day kicks in. When worse comes to worst, what will come out of you? You answer that by asking about your daily habits. What do you do every single day? What do you practice? A Jesuit named Richie Fernando died saving lives in Cambodia. An angry student had brought a hand grenade to class; and while instinct would tell you to run and save your life, he did the very opposite– he ran TO the student to stop him. It was that grand gesture that people celebrate. But what is not seen is how Richie lived his life every day before that final moment. How he was very generous and forgiving. How just coming to Cambodia was already a sacrifice. In that one split second, that fundamental option to offer one’s life instead of preserving it ran its course and kicked in automatically, like instinct. When worse comes to worst, what you do every single day kicks in, and like a malignant weed, takes over.
Just like a mustard seed.